The Miami Marlins had the 29th best offense in MLB last season. An offense that was being looked at with some glimmer of hope at its inception of the 2015 campaign, even being touted as having the best OF in the game.
Things went wrong. Giancarlo Stanton missed 88 games last year after a promising start. He was on pace for 59 HR and 147 RBI but suffered a broken hamate bone which shut him down in 2015. Christian Yelich struggled at the start of the season and also was on the DL for a time – only taking the field for 126 contests. Then there is Marcell Ozuna, who spent a large amount of time finding himself at AAA NOLA, much to the chagrin of his super agent, Scott Boras.
These are all areas for growth. Yes, Stanton has to prove he is durable enough to make it through an entire season (he’s missed 190 games over the past 4 seasons) but his power potential alone in the lineup makes the other hitters that much more of a threat. Yelich was able to cobble together a strong finish and put in a .300 average by season’s end. Ozuna finished better than he started and has reportedly come to camp in excellent shape – something he lacked at the start of last season.
The Miami Herald does a pretty good job breaking down the other areas of the offense and painting the picture for growth. Yet, there are a few areas that they missed which have us optimistic.
Two important forces are Don Mattingly taking the helm and Barry Bonds stepping in as hitting instructor. Neither of these moves can be discounted. In Mattingly, the Marlins gain immediate credibility on and off the field. The players in the clubhouse will play for him and will listen to his leadership; something that seemed to be missing from this team in the past. Credibility and culture were artificially manufactured through Ozzie Guillen, Mike Redmond, and then Dan Jennings. As we noted in the past, it was culture that was adversely affecting this franchise, not the talent – although that could certainly not be overlooked. Mattingly brings pedigree; from his days as the captain of the Yankees and working with George Steinbrenner, to governing the bench under Joe Torre and eventually sliding into his own spot with the Dodgers. Mattingly will set the tone from the start of spring training and will ask his players to be professional while keeping it loose.
The other, perhaps overlooked, factor is the presence of Barry Bonds (Read Clark Spencer’s piece here.). Not only is this a testament to Mattingly, who truly demonstrates selfless leadership by inviting the great mind of Bonds into his clubhouse, but he also shows a willingness to work with the best despite outside perception. Bonds is a figure not unfamiliar with controversy, and the list could be recounted here. Yet, at his core, he is one of the greatest hitters to ever live. Regardless of the alleged use of HGH or other artificial enhancements, Bonds still had the mental and physical talent to accomplish what he did. He was a tireless worker and studied relentlessly, things the media would not tend to focus on but instead on his production. Bonds did more with less than anyone in baseball; he was walked and pitched around practically every game at the end of his stellar career. Don’t think a guy like Stanton could use that kind of insight or education?
The culture will shift in the Marlins clubhouse. You have some great baseball minds running the day to day show now and their credibility will be felt immediately. They won’t have to prove anything to anyone or wait until they can acclimate. The buy-in is instant. Whether or not the Marlins offense has underperformed in the past, it will be the coaching and steady hand of Mattingly that will provide the most upside for the 2016 campaign.